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Diesel teams up with Tunisian suppliers on UN-backed cotton upcycling project

Diesel’s parent company OTB Group is setting up a pilot project in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to create a reduced-emissions circular business system.

The project will be developed in the second half of the year and through 2023, with Diesel and its Tunisian manufacturing partners creating a “virtuous circle” for scraps from fabric-cutting operations.

Supplier involvement is essential. The idea behind the project is that production scrap can and should be treated as a resource and that more responsible use of raw materials can be achieved through circular business models extended to the entire supply chain.

OTB reports that Tunisia produces 31,000 tons of waste, 55 percent of which is classified as scrap. “The replacement of virgin textile fibres with recycled fibres could therefore reduce the industry’s environmental impact, safeguarding water and cutting carbon emissions and the dispersal of hazardous chemical substances into agriculture,” it said.

The company added that the business model “not only ensures that the value of raw material is kept high throughout the local supply chain, it also contributes to the adoption of a circular approach by the entire system that reduces dependence on virgin resources and optimizes scrap, turning it once again into a raw material that provides value.”

OTB rolled out an updated sustainability strategy in 2021 focusing on three main areas: safeguarding the environment, attention to products, and social commitment. By 2030, the Italian company’s operations will be carbon neutral. To achieve this goal, it has unveiled several circularity initiatives through Diesel, including Diesel Second Hand, a resale business available in Europe supplied by a buyback program.

The OTB and Diesel pilot project is part of the EU-funded SwitchMed program developed in cooperation with the Tunisian government and the Tunisian textile and clothing federation. The program aims to establish a benchmark in the fashion industry as it continues to strengthen its use of recycled materials and textiles.

Recycling cutting scraps is the second phase of UNIDO’s effort to help position Tunisia as a global hub for sustainable denim. In December 2020, Swedish denim brand Nudie Jeans teamed with SwitchMed to take second-quality jeans—those with slight defects such as a discolored wash, inconsistent stitching or irregular cut—and refashion them into new jeans. The pilot project repurposed 6,530 pairs of second-quality jeans into 16,000 new pairs made of 20 percent recycled cotton, overperforming its initial target of 15,000. Jeans produced in the pilot were sold in select Nudie Jeans shops and online.

Post-industrial waste recycling is a $350 billion opportunity from which Tunisia stands to benefit, according to Accelerating Circularity, a collaborative initiative formed by sustainable materials community Textile Exchange. Roberta De Palma, UNIDO’s chief technical advisor, said the program could “set an example on the potential for a completely local recycling value chain in Tunisia.”

Source: Sourcing Journal

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